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They’re all beer aficionados on this bus

Brew Bus

Getting aboard The South Florida Brew Bus near the Funky Buddha.

A group of South Floridians discover their region’s breweries and beers with a chartered bus tour.

By Alan J. Wax

It began and ended in Boca Raton, Florida. For more than eight hours, starting on a recent sunny, Saturday afternoon and finishing mid-evening, 24 craft-beer loving South Floridians traipsed through five brewery tasting rooms, traveling from one to another aboard a luxury livery dubbed the South Florida Brew Bus, sampling dozens of beers at each—and more onboard.

Tour organizer Melissa Nowak at Wynwood Brewry

Tour organizer Melissa Nowak at Wynwood Brewery in Miami.

The beer lovers were among the 500-plus members of the Boca Brews Meet Up Group. The tour was organized by the group’s leader, Melissa Nowak, a former paralegal and Maryland expat now living in Boca Raton. A diverse collection of men and women — Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials, Boca Brews meets monthly at different venues to quaff their favorite beverage and socialize.

The Brew Bus is affiliated with the Funky Buddha Brewery, which is in Oakland Park, Florida’s budding Culinary Arts District and, which highly regarded for its full-flavored, eclectic beers. Funky Buddha, the region’s largest brewer, started in Boca Raton, where it still operates a lounge and small-scale brewing operation.

I happened to be in Florida when a Boca Brews bus tour was scheduled and decided to join  the fun. Many of the breweries are in out-of-the way locations and the idea of visiting them without having to drive was appealing.

We departed from Miller’s East Boca Ale House in Boca Raton, with Funky Buddha Brewery our first destination. On board, cans of Brew Bus beer, brewed by Cigar City Brewing in Tampa were passed around—along with pretzels and cookies. I found myself with a can of Rolling Dirty, an Irish-style red ale with a big malt backbone and a good dose of hops.

The breweries and their beers

Funky Buddha Brewery in Oakland Park

Funky Buddha Brewery in Oakland Park

The exterior of the Funky Buddha is deceptive, looking much like a store in a strip mall. Inside, however, there’s a cavernous tasting room and, of course, the brewing operation.  Since brewers can’t serve food under Florida law, a food truck sits outside. There are numerous beers on tap, but its possible to select a few for a custom flight. Servers write each beer’s name in white chalk on your paddle.  Opting for an eclectic selection of brews I was not disappointed.  Vanilla Cream Abdul Jabar Ale showed just enough vanilla to make it interesting—a cream soda kissed by hops. No Crusts, a brown ale with peanut butter and jelly, was interesting with its distinct, but balanced bready, peanut and fruit notes, but too sweet for more than a sampler-sized glass. Chocolate Covered Cherry Porter was tasty, but hardly summery with its strong bitter chocolate and roasted-grain character and undertones of cherries. Floridian Gone Wild is the brewery’s popular wheat beer turned into a tart, but soft refresher.

Mack House Interior

Inside The Mack House, Davie, FL

Back on the bus for a short hop to Mack House in Davie, Florida, home to the Holy Mackerel nano brewery. The tasting room-cum-college-dorm lounge, tucked away in a strip mall on the service road of I-595, offered a handful of interesting beers and some less so. The easy drinking Bowling Alley Blonde seemed to be an entry-level, session brew with its low hop bitterness and a sweet, soft malt character. The golden-hued Downpour IPA offered balanced bready malts and a resiny hop character. The best-selling Psycho Fish, a cloudy orange-colored, orange-infused, intensely flavored Belgian tripel was a delight with its estery Belgian yeast notes, bright orange flavor and notes of bubble gum. Mack in Black, a dark, strong Belgian-style ale was opaque and stoutish with roasty notes. Panic con Pablo is a copper-colored ale infused with a blend of coffee from a local coffee shop called Café Don Pablo Gourmet Coffee; too intensely coffee flavored for my palate.

Inside the Abbey Brewing, South Beach

Inside the Abbey Brewing, South Beach

Onward to South Beach’s only brew pub, Abbey Brewing, which contract brews its four house-designed offerings at Indian River Brewing Co./Florida Beer Co.  in Melbourne, Florida. Appearing bit rustic for this glitzy neighborhood, it offers more guest beers than those with its own tap handle. On a recommendation, I sampled Immaculate IPA, a copper-hued brew more in the style of an English ESB with notes of malt, fruity esters and more than a hint of hop bitterness.

Inside Titanic Brewing, Coral Gables

Titanic Brewing, Coral Gables

Stop No. 4: Coral Gables, home to Titanic Brewery and Restaurant, the Miami area’s first brew pub, located opposite the University of Miami Hurricanes’ baseball stadium. Titanic’s beers, not surprisingly are mostly British influenced and nautical themed, a sampler of six generally well-made brews cost just $6. Triple Screw Light Ale, a 4% abv German style ale, was more like a Pilsner than a Kolsch with its grainy, low-hopped character.

Captain Smith’s Rye Ale, an amber brew was deep brown, round, fruity and spicy from the malted rye in the grain bill. White Star India Pale Ale is a copper-hued Anglo-American ale made with Cascade hopes and British ale yeast. Loaded with juicy malt character along with citrus notes it was smooth, creamy brew.Britannic Best Bitter, a British styled ESB was amber hued with a fruity, malty and floral hop character.  Boiler Room Nut Brown Ale, also quite British in style, was a translucent reddish brown, creamy, grainy and a finish that was somewhat short.Shipbuilders Oatmeal Stout, deep brown with an oily character, it seemed thin bodied with an exceptionally dry finish.

Wynwood Brewing in Miami's Wynwood Arts District

Wynwood Brewing, Miami

Our final destination was the Wynwood Brewery, Miami’s first production brewery, located in the Wynwood Arts District, just east of Interstate 95 on a street lined with single-level warehouses tagged with graffiti. Having had a couple of Wynwood’s brews before and been disappointed, I was pleasantly surprised by Wynwood’s Fox, an imperial/double red with a deep russet hue, crisp and flavorful with big malt character and enough hops to suggest and IPA. I was, however, annoyed by the 12-oz. plastic cup and the $8 tariff.

Abbey Brewing Co., 1115 16th St., Miami Beach, FL 33139, (305) 538-8110.
Funky Buddha Brewery, 1201 NE 38th St, Oakland Park, FL 33334 (954) 440-0046.

The Mack House (Holy Mackerel Nano Brewery), 9118 W. State Road 84, Davie, FL 33324 (954) 474-5040.

Titanic Brewing Co., 5813 Ponce De Leon Blvd, Coral Gables, FL 33146 (305) 667-2537.

Wynwood Brewing Co., 565 NW 24th St, Miami, FL 33127 (305) 982-8732.

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TAP Global Beer Collection, a new bar in Delray Beach, FL, offers local pours

TAP Global Beer Collection is in a Delray Beach, Fla. shopping center

TAP Global Beer Collection is in a Delray Beach, Fla. shopping center

South Florida’s burgeoning craft beer scene has gotten a smidge larger and a lot more interesting with the opening of a new craft beer bar in Delray West.

TAP Global Beer Collection, with 72 taps and 378 bottled brews, has been open since January in the new Delray Marketplace, a crowded, upscale shopping venue anchored by a 12-screen, 16-lane movie/bowling complex.


TAP Global Beer offers 72 taps and 300+ bottles in a lodge-like setting.

TAP Global Beer offers 72 taps and 300+ bottles in a lodge-like setting.

World of Beer, a franchised craft beer bar chain that has outlets 15 miles south in Coconut Creek and 26 miles north in West Palm Beach. Oh yes, big screen TVs abound. And there’s small private tasting room, too,

Unlike World of Beer, TAP serves food, albeit limited to tapas, largely bar favorites such as soft baked pretzels, chili, hummus, mac & cheese and more.

There’s a glossy beer menu, which includes a beer-style guide upfront. There’s also a single-page  paper menu listing special brews. Attractive servers, attired in black jeans and t-shirts, are knowledgeable about the brews and are ready to offer advice.

During a recent visit on a quiet weekday night when no events or music were being offered, I found a dozen local brews among the 72 on tap, including offerings from Miami Brewing in Homestead, Wynwood Brewing in Miami, Due South in Boynton Beach, Funky Buddha in Oakland Park and Florida Beer Co. in Melbourne. For a casual visitor to this area, a sampler makes it easy to taste many of the local brews. A sampler of six cost $15.

Sampler of local brews

Sampler of local brews

I was quite taken by the Funky Buddha French Oak Aged Hop Gun, a bright orange brew with a nose of honey, hazel nuts and spice and an unexpected soft finish. Its simpler sibling, Hop Gun, was less interesting.  Funky Buddha’s Polish Hammer, an imperial lager, was brilliant copper in color and a velvety malt body was accented by resiny hops, which lingered on the finish. Funky Buddha’s OP Porter offered up a caramel nose and was sweet and creamy on the palate—sort of a carbonated milk shake, if you will. Another porter, Pops, from Wynwood, was juicy, but far roastier with notes of roasted malt chocolate and licorice with a soft dry finish. Miami Vice IPA, despite its juicy malt character and resiny finish seems one-dimensional.

TAP is the work of co-founders Tony Trieu, owner of the Nashville-based Venetian Nail Spa chain and the Live Love Yogurt shops chain, and Paige Presnell, a Fort Lauderdale-based real estate developer and contractor, who is now a certified cicerone. (TAP, by the way, stands for Tony and Paige.)

TAP Global Beer Collection is at 14813 Lyons Rd., Delray Beach, FL 33446, just west of Florida’s Turnpike. It is open from 2 p.m. on weekdays and Noon on weekends. (561) 270-3839.



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In South Florida’s Delray Beach, Saltwater is both a brewery and a theme

62670_467280403340045_1194112926_nFlorida’s newest craft brewery opens its doors Dec. 30.

The opening of Saltwater Brewery, in Delray Beach, a seaside city midway between Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach on South Florida’s Atlantic Coast, culminates more than 20 months of planning, construction and, of course, some frustration.

Founded by a group of local beer aficionados with the help of a veteran brewer, Saltwater Brewery opens with seven beers flowing from its taps, ranging from an easy-drinking pale ale to a deceptively easy-to-drink Belgian strong ale that clocks in at 10 percent ABV.

Located at 1701 W. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach’s main thoroughfare, Saltwater Brewery is housed in a converted 1952-era barn/former antique furniture store adjacent to the CSX railroad tracks that parallel Interstate 95.

A frequent visitor to Florida, I happened to be in Delray Beach just prior to the brewery’s opening and used the opportunity to meet its founders and sample some of the brews. The beers are well crafted, clean, flavorful, well balanced, and each distinct from the other.


Saltwater Brewery founders Chris Gove, brewmaster Bill Taylor, Dustin Jeffers, Bo Eaton and Peter Agardy.

Saltwater, I was told, had its genesis in April 2012, when a group of local beer lovers– founders Bo Eaton, Peter Agardy, Chris Gove and Dustin Jeffers – came together and decided to open a brewery.  Brewmaster Bill Taylor, a 17-year industry veteran who was making beer in Montana at Neptune’s Brewery, joined them a few months later. Despite plans to open in the summer of 2013, construction and sewer issues, regulatory hurdles and the like pushed the date into the fall and then early winter.  “We had a few hiccups,” said Agardy. Millions of dollars and months later, the brewery began producing beer shortly before Thanksgiving. Saltwater’s founders hope to produce 7,500 barrels in their first year of operating their 20-bbl system.

The brewery’s owners said they plan to hew an image for the brewery that conjures up its seaside location with its culture of surfing, fishing and diving and marine conservation. But more than that, “we emphasize quality local beer,” said Agardy, explaining that the brews’ flavors “should be more than your palate can handle.”


Inside the brewery, Dustin Jeffers at work.

A gleaming pinewood bar, fashioned from wood salvaged from the original building, dominates Saltwater’s taproom. Behind the glassed-in bar is the brewery, a collection of stainless steel including brew kettle and mash tun, six 40-gal. fermenters, two 20-gal. fermenters and two 10-bbl tanks. The fermenters are outfitted with glycol jackets to help tame the Florida heat. Grain, too, is stored in a temperature-controlled room. And the water is carbon-filtered to rid it of its heavy mineral taste.

Saltwater Brewery is the latest arrival on expanding craft beer scene in South Florida, where eleven breweries and brewpubs have opened in recent years, from Miami to Tequesta. They include Due South Brewing, in Boynton Beach; Tequesta Brewing in Tequestra, just north of Palm Beach; Funky Buddha in Oakland; The Mack House – Holy Mackerel Nano Brewery in Davie; Wynwood Brewing Co. in Miami and such brew pubs as Titanic in Miami; Brewzzi’s in Boca Raton and West Palm Beach; Tampa Bay Brewing’s Tap House and Big Beer Brewing, both in Coral Springs; and The Funky Buddha Lounge in Boca Raton. And more are planned.

“There’s a huge South Florida beer culture,” co-founder Peter Agardy, told me during my visit.  “We saw an opportunity.” He explained that breweries, such as Saltwater are benefiting from the growing number of youthful craft drinkers in the area and a rising tide of first-generation craft beer lovers who have retired to the region.

The plan is to start with familiar beer styles before brewing more unusual brews. Thus, imbibers on opening day will be able chose from a wide range of styles including:

  • South End Session Ale, a low ABV session pale ale with a honeyed nose named for the area of Delray Beach where fishing and surfing are popular.
  • Bonafide Blonde, a golden brew fermented with Belgian yeast. (Not tasted).
  • Big Treble Amber Ale, a nicely balanced red ale.
  • Screaming Reels IPA, whose name pays homage to deep-sea fishermen. It most definitely screams hops.
  • Stinger Double India Pale Ale, named for local jelly fish,
  • SeaCow Milk Stout, named after the native Florida Sea Cow, the Manatee, who reside in the murky brackish waters of Florida.  This light-bodied beer is dark, chocolately and roasty with a touch of sweetness.
  • Flying Scotsmen Scotch Ale (not tasted).
  • Don’t Get Confused Belgian Strong Ale. Golden with a foamy white head, the Belgian yeast character is evident; the high alcohol content is not. Deceptively easy to drink. (Two barrels of the brew are aging in bourbon casks.)

Saltwater’s brews initially will be available only in the brewery’s taproom for on-premise consumption or for takeaway in growlers.  The idea, said Agardy is to grow sales organically and get the community’s support. “We want to be the Delray brewery and take care of the locals.”




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